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'A new era': NASA DART mission strikes asteroid in key test of planetary defense

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NASA's DART spaceship on Monday struck the asteroid Dimorphos in a historic test of humanity's ability to prevent a cosmic object from devastating life on Earth.Impact occurred at 7:14 pm Eastern Time (2314 GMT), 10 months after the Double Asteroid Redirection Test probe blasted off from California to carry out its first-of-a-kind experiment."We're embarking on a new era, an era in which we potentially have the capability to protect ourselves from something like a dangerous hazardous asteroid impact," said Lori Glaze, director of NASA's planetary science division.The 530-foot (160-meter) asteroid Dimorphos -- roughly comparable to an Egyptian pyramid -- which orbits a big brother called Didymos, first appeared as a speck of light around an hour before the collision.Its bread bun shape and rocky surface finally came into clear view in the last few minutes as DART raced toward it at roughly 14,500 miles (23,500 kilometers) per hour.To be sure, the pair of asteroids pose no threat to our planet as they loop the Sun, passing about seven million miles from Earth at their current "minimized" position.But NASA has deemed the experiment important to carry out before an actual need is discovered.By striking Dimorphos head on, NASA hopes to push it into a smaller orbit, shaving 10 minutes off the time it takes to encircle Didymos, which is currently 11 hours and 55 minutes -- a change that will be detected by ground telescopes in the days or weeks to come.The proof-of-concept experiment will make a reality of what has before only been attempted in science fiction -- notably in films such as "Armageddon" and "Don't Look Up."Minutes after impact, a toaster-sized satellite called LICIACube, which already separated from DART a few

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